Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, has reaffirmed her support for a longstanding campaign to tackle discrimination against assistance dog owners at a recent event in Parliament organised by the charity, Guide Dogs.
Last week, more than a hundred guide dog owners from across the country converged on Westminster Hall to share their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. At the event, Catherine McKinnell spoke to guide dog owners about the lasting impact of these refusals on their everyday lives.
It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances. Despite this, a new Guide Dogs survey has found that three out of four (76%) assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog.
Taxis and minicabs were the worst offenders – experienced by 73% of those reporting refusals in the last twelve months. Refusals at restaurants (54%), newsagents (42%) and high street shops (36%) were also common.
Guide Dogs are calling for all taxi and minicab drivers to be required to take disability equality training so they are aware of the rights of disabled passengers. Guide Dogs also supports changes to equality legislation to make action against businesses who refuse access easier.
It was really disturbing to hear just how common these incidents of discrimination for assistance dog owners still are, even though they are illegal. No one should be turned away from a business or service because of their assistance dog.
‘I am pleased to reiterate my support for Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign, to tackle the ignorance that causes access refusals, to raise awareness of the importance of disability equality training – and to make sure businesses are held accountable when refusals happen.’
Chris Theobald, Public Affairs Manager at Guide Dogs, said:
‘The law is very clear that assistance dog owners have the same rights as anyone else to shop, take a taxi or visit their local restaurant.
‘Despite this, our survey shows assistance dog owners face refusals on a regular basis. When you rely on your guide dog to get around, businesses that refuse to allow your dog in are effectively slamming the door in your face.
‘Businesses have a responsibility to make sure all their staff welcome assistance dog owners. That’s why we are calling for disability equality training as standard in sectors where refusals are common. We also support an overhaul of equality legislation so that businesses that refuse access face the full consequences of the law.’